Southern Californians are among those at highest risk of death due to air pollution, according to recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research published in the journal Risk Analysis.

The study, published last month, was conducted to “provide insight to the size and location of public health risks associated with recent levels of fine particles and ozone, allowing decision-makers to better target air quality policies,” the federal agency said in a statement responding to California Watch inquiries.

“While overall levels of fine particles and ozone have declined significantly in the past two decades, these two pollutants still pose a burden to public health,” the EPA statement said.

The study examined air pollution exposure based on 2005 air quality levels and projected there could be between 130,000 and 360,000 premature deaths among adults in coming years. The 2005 data was the best available for analyzing fine particulates and ozone, the EPA said. Among vulnerable populations like children, the EPA also estimates that fine particulate matter and ozone results in millions of cases of respiratory symptoms, asthma and school absences, as well as hundreds of thousands of cases of acute bronchitis and emergency room visits.

The analysis also found that Southern Californians and residents of the industrial Midwest experience the highest exposure to fine particulate matter, which has been found to exacerbate respiratory illnesses and increase heart attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the most populated areas of the country, Los Angeles had the highest estimated rate of deaths attributable to air pollution, at nearly 10 percent; San Jose had the lowest at 3.5 percent.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District conducted a similar risk assessment last year and found that about 1,700 premature deaths can be attributed to fine particulate matter in the Bay Area each year, which is about 3.8 percent of all deaths.

Particulate matter is made up of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller – which means they have a width 30 times smaller than a human hair. Common sources of fine particulate matter, often referred to as PM 2.5, are forest fires and emissions from power plants, industrial sources and cars. Unhealthy forms of ozone are created when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight; ozone is typically linked to byproducts from industrial facilities and electric utilities, car exhaust, gas vapors and chemical solvents.

Local air districts in Southern California and the Bay Area have attempted to limit fine particulate matter and ozone emissions through Spare the Air days by regulating wood burning and offering financial incentives to businesses to phase out the use of diesel engines.

Public health advocates say that the EPA study illustrates the importance of improving air quality and that these types of studies on the risks of air pollution have been used to determine federal regulations and inform local clean air plans.

“One of the hardest things to explain to the public is that while the air is cleaner, we continue to find that we have underestimated the health effects of breathing in air pollution,” said Joe Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and a governing board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “Yes, we have made significant accomplishments, but we still have a long way to go. The public needs to understand that this is a life-and-death situation.”

The EPA’s research on air pollution and mortality have, however, been the subject of political and scientific debate.

James Enstrom, a researcher with UCLA’s School of Public Health, argues that while there is a connection between air quality and health effects, the EPA study fails to acknowledge regional nuances when it comes to the real risks of premature deaths.

“The question is whether there is enough epidemiological evidence to conclude that air pollution kills people,” Enstrom said. “Every piece of evidence for the state of California as a whole shows that there’s no effect (on mortality). There’s some effect in the Los Angeles basin, but that’s not a fair representation of absolute risk.”

Enstrom, who in the past has received research funding from industries opposed to stricter air quality regulations, said the costs of these regulations are “only justified if it’s killing people.” “The other morbidities associated with (air pollution) are lung problems, hospitalizations, asthma, and those don’t amount to enough to affect the cost-benefit ratios,” he said.

In a November letter to the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Reps. Andy Harris, R-Md., and Paul Broun, R-Ga., both physicians, also challenged the agency’s “troubling scientific and economic accounting practices” that “appear designed to provide political cover for a more stringent regulatory agenda rather than to objectively inform policy decisions.”

But Dan Farber, a UC Berkeley law professor and co-director of the university’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, said the debates over the EPA’s air quality findings are ultimately political.

“There is strong industry opposition to these regulations and strong opposition from groups who are ideologically opposed to regulation in general,” Farber wrote in an e-mail. “EPA’s most important role in terms of economic impact and public health relates to air pollution. So it’s not surprising that this is the area where EPA is being attacked.”


In the face of numerous complaints and violations, Sunshine Canyon Landfill has organized an ‘odor patrol team’ to sniff out olfactory offenses in the Granada Hills North neighborhood. But its efforts haven’t always passed residents’ smell test.

Dennis Montano stood on a corner in Granada Hills one recent brisk morning, lifted his nose to the sky and sniffed.

“Right now, I don’t smell anything,” Montano said.

That was good news for the embattled Sunshine Canyon Landfill. The disposal site operates roughly a mile away in Sylmar but has roiled the Granada Hills North neighborhood with a potpourri of foul smells. In the face of numerous complaints and dozens of public nuisance violations, the company has organized an “odor patrol team” in an effort to improve community relations and comply with state regulations.

As a member of the company’s team, the 32-year-old Montano has found himself on the front line of a pungent conflict. Sunshine operators insist that odor patrols will help fan the quality of life downwind, but some residents charge that they are simply for show and accomplish nothing.

“As far as neighbors are concerned, it’s a sham,” said Wayde Hunter, president of North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens Inc., a nonprofit group that has been fighting the dump for more than two decades. “They have zero credibility in the neighborhood. If you ask anyone in the community about the team, they’ll tell you that what they’re doing is basically B.S.”

Formally launched in 2010, the patrols are intended to head off complaints by detecting problem odors early.

If an odor is sensed, the monitor notifies site staff who conduct an on-site odor survey to determine the source and identify what immediate steps can be taken to mitigate it. They check the environmental control systems for any disruptions, and sometimes contractors are called in to make temporary fixes ahead of permanent repairs, operators say.

“We want to be good neighbors,” said Patti Costa, environmental manager for the landfill, which is operated by Republic Services Inc. a Phoenix-based solid waste collection and disposal company. “We want to solve this issue. We don’t take it lightly.”

Working five-hour shifts that typically begin at 5:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. and cover between five and 10 miles, Montano stops at 13 locations in the Granada Hills North neighborhood.

His first location for gauging odors is in front of Van Gogh Elementary School. He uses an anemometer to determine altitude, latitude, longitude, relative humidity and the direction and speed of the wind.

On this particular morning, the wind was blowing from the north at 3.3 mph, the temperature was 55.5 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity was 23.6%.

Montano entered the information into an iPad before again taking a whiff. He then employed a “Nasal Ranger,” a portable odor detection and measuring device that resembles a bullhorn. Pressing the instrument to his nose, he inhaled a few times and twisted a dial at the end of the device, which is embedded with carbon filters. The higher the number on the dial, the more distinct the odor, Costa explained.

Montano, who used to work in inventory control for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said he applied for the odor management team job after being tipped off by a friend. He took the prerequisite “sniff test,” formally known as an Odor Sensitivity Test Kit, and passed with flying colors, Costa confirmed.

“I actually didn’t know about my nose until I interviewed and took the test,” Montano said.

But Montano isn’t the only one with a keen sense of smell.

In 2011, 1,565 odor complaints against Sunshine Canyon were lodged with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, up from 613 the year before and 310 in 2009, according to state statistics. Last year’s figure represented around 20% of all air quality complaints the agency received from operations under its jurisdiction. So far this year, at least 182 complaints have been made against the landfill, which disposes of up to 10,000 tons of trash per day on 363 acres.

The smells were primarily from rotting garbage or landfill gas — “a sickly sweet type of odor” — said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the air quality management agency.

To comply with an abatement order issued in 2010 and most recently amended in December, the landfill is taking several actions before a February deadline. Among them: instituting a robust gas collection and destruction system, including installing a temporary gas flare to destroy excess landfill gas; conducting a 12-month study to analyze potential air toxins; hiring an independent consultant to do environmental monitoring and take corrective action; and designating staff to be on call 24 hours a day to investigate and, where feasible, immediately remediate the source of odors.

The company is also taking other mitigation steps, such as installing “dust bosses” that spray a fine mist into the air to trap odor particles before they can disperse, and planting scores of oak trees to help block smells, Costa said. She urged residents to utilize a 24-hour complaints hotline.

Though the landfill operator was taking odor complaints seriously, Costa said it was possible some of the scents were caused by other non-landfill sources, such as skunks, fertilizers and sewers.

But resident Ralph Kroy scoffed at that notion. Kroy, whose house sits across from Van Gogh Elementary, said he had no doubt where the stink was coming from.

“It’s a darn nuisance,” said Kroy, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1968 and lodged dozens of odor complaints over the years. “You go outside … and oh my gosh.”

Nor was he impressed by the new odor patrols.

“They can’t collect anything,” Kroy said. “The smell is still there.”

From December 8, 2011.

Wayde Hunter’s segment starts at the 7:50 mark of the audio file.  You can move the cursor along to that point to skip to it.  Warning it does last for 23 minutes but it contains a lot of information.

Note: At the time of the interview, Mr. Hunter was member of the GHNNC, the North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens Inc., and a concerned resident.  He was not representing the SCL-CAC.

An Ohio landfill has reached a settlement, including a $35,923 civil penalty, with the state regarding solid waste and odor violations.

Apex Environmental LLC, which operates a landfill in Amsterdam, Jefferson County, agreed to install and begin operating 23 landfill gas collection wells by the end of this year, according to the Ohio EPA.

Multiple inspections between October and December by the Ohio EPA and the Jefferson County General Health District detected odors emanating from the landfill. The gas wells are designed to control the odors.

State and county officials, in early October, also observed leachate breaching an area of the landfill and failure of a rain flap meant to contain the leachate, the Ohio EPA said. Apex, within two weeks, told the health district it had repaired the flap.

The landfill agreed to limit day tonnage to 6,500, down from 7,500, until odors have been eliminated for an extended period of time, the state said.

The Ohio EPA said Apex has worked with the agency to address the violations. Continue reading

Wayde Hunter was on LA Talk Radio with our own Edward Headington in the early afternoon today talking about the Sunshine Canyon Landfill.
If you take this link and then click on start button in the box on the upper left (Original Show Date November 3) it will start the session.  Note that this is the start of the show at 00.00 but if you click on the bar you will be able to move the pointer along to the start of the conversation/interview which is at 29:30.

A state agency has filed a notice of intent to cite the operators of Sunshine Canyon Landfill for violating the minimum standard for odor control.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery issued the notice late last week after reviewing Sunshine Canyon inspection reports for June and July.

Inspections were conducted by a local enforcement agency composed of city and county officials, who did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

The CalRecycle notice warns Republic Services, operators of Sunshine Canyon, to correct the issue within 90 days to avoid the citation.

Republic spokeswoman Peg Mulloy said the odor problem could be coming from the gas-extraction system, which collects landfill gas and burns it off to prevent it from being released into the air.

“We hired an outside firm to repair or replace gas wells,” Mulloy said. “If we didn’t do this project, there would be deterioration. We expect that to be done in October.”

The number of complaints about foul smells from the landfill jumped more than tenfold in the last few years, according to state officials.

More than 600 complaints were registered in 2010, compared to fewer than 50 in 2008.

Sunshine Canyon Landfill is one of the nation’s largest integrated waste management facilities, taking in 9,500 tons of trash daily. It is actually two adjacent landfills – one on city land, one in county jurisdiction – that merged operations in 2009.

“We understand it’s a problem and we don’t want it to be,” Mulloy said of the odor issues. “We are looking at every possible cause and then we are taking every possible action to reduce and eliminate the odors.”

Mulloy said the company discontinued taking waste from one customer that was considered a potential source of the odor. She also said the city/county permit required Sunshine Canyon to cover one of the side slopes with green waste, which may also have caused the odor.

“We stopped that practice because of the odors generated,” Mulloy said.

Meanwhile, a Sunshine Canyon Landfill-Community Advisory Committee meeting will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Knollwood Country Club, 12024 Balboa Boulevard, Granada Hills. The meeting will include officials from Sunshine, who will discuss how the odors are being mitigated.

ODOR: Complaints by residents against Sunshine Canyon have increased tenfold in two years.

(South Coast Air Quality Management)

SYLMAR – A pungent odor emanating from the Sunshine Canyon landfill over the last two years has left nearby residents holding their noses and local officials scratching their heads.

The number of complaints about foul smells from the landfill wafting over neighborhoods and schools has jumped more than tenfold in the last two years, according to state officials. More than 600 complaints were registered in 2010, compared to less than 50 in 2008.

This year since Jan. 1 alone, at least 676 complaints have been filed with the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“How much is enough for this community?” said a frustrated Wayde Hunter, president of North Valley Coalition, a nonprofit organization which was formed more than 20 years ago.

“There’s just been an exponential increase in days when there is an odor,” he said. “I’m frantic, I just don’t know what to do.”

But the landfill’s operators and local environmental officials have yet to discover the source of the stench.

Sunshine Canyon Landfill, which takes in 9,500 tons of trash each day, is run by Republic Services, one of the largest integrated waste management companies in the United States.

“We know there is an odor issue, and that is unacceptable to us,” said Peg Mulloy, spokeswoman for Republic. “Right now, we don’t know where (the odor is) coming from. We’re focusing all our efforts on trying to find the problem.”

Mulloy said new general manager David Cieply has been hired as part of the company’s effort to bring in new people to help solve the problem at the landfill.

“The key is, we admit that there are odors and we know there is a problem,” she said. “We know people are unhappy.”

The AQMD has issued 15 violations against operators of the landfill so far this year, compared to four for the same time period in 2010.

The landfill, at 14747 San Fernando Rd., in Sylmar is about two miles north of Van Gogh Elementary School in Granada Hills, where children, parents, and teachers complain they smell a foul odor each morning until about 10 a.m.

“It usually dissipates by recess,” said Gale Gundersen, who called in a complaint to the AQMD on Thursday.

She said the increase in odors began last year.

“It’s a strong garbage smell,” she said.

The AQMD violation notices do not come with fines, but the agency in January ordered the landfill to fix the problem, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the air-quality regulating agency.

In very rare circumstances, a landfill is ordered to cease operations, Atwood said. “We’ve received hundreds of complaints and that shows there is a problem,” Atwood said.

The Los Angeles Unified School district is documenting the problem as well. So far, the district has no accounts of students who have been sickened or hospitalized because of the odor, said John Sterritt, director of environmental health and safety for LAUSD.

“The kids are overcome by the odor, and we think that’s a really big problem,” said Bill Piazza, an environmental assessment coordinator for LAUSD.

Along with the AQMD, Los Angeles city and county officials last month formed a 90-day action plan. Landfill operators are supposed to reduce the number of trucks delivering trash during peak hours, use soil, instead of tarps, to cover the trash at the end of the day, and install several DustBoss odor control units in areas where trash is deposited.

Landfill operators also must conduct odor patrols from 6 to 10 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

The city and county formed a joint enforcement team in 2008 to supervise Sunshine Canyon. Sunshine is actually two side-by-side landfills – one on city land, one in county jurisdiction – that merged operations in 2009.

“We’re very concerned about it,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose district includes the landfill. He said the county Department of Public Works has been in talks with Republic to make sure the 90-day plan of action is implemented.

While no cause is known for sure, city and county officials speculate the odor could be caused by types and quantities of trash received, methods of handling the trash, and/or a faulty landfill gas collection system among other factors.

City Councilman Greig Smith said officials are collecting all the notices of violation as well as other information, in case legal action against the operators of the landfill becomes necessary.

“We can order them to close the doors which is in our purview,” Smith said. “The onus is on their backs to perform. It’s taken so ridiculously long.”

The state will monitor Sunshine Canyon until a local body is set up.

Adding another wrinkle to a decades-old controversy over a giant dump in the north San Fernando Valley, the state has approved a request by the operator of Sunshine Canyon Landfill to step in and oversee enforcement of waste laws at the facility until a city-county joint agency is approved.

Sunshine Canyon is actually two landfills roughly a quarter of a mile apart, which puts them in different jurisdictions: one in the city of Los Angeles, the other in unincorporated county territory.

For The Record
Sunshine Canyon: An article in the June 30 California section about the Sunshine Canyon Landfill said the dump sits atop an underground reservoir that holds water for 19 million people. The San Fernando Groundwater Basin is one mile south of the dump, and only non-potable water lies under the dump. Also, the article stated that Greg Loughnane, a spokesman for Browning-Ferris Industries, said company officials wanted to combine the two dumps at the site into one because a single dump would be less expensive to operate. In fact, Loughnane said the sole reason for seeking to merge the two was concern they would run out of room for garbage.

Sunshine Canyon Landfill could take in up to 57 million tons more trash than officials have predicted, potentially extending the life span of the Granada Hills dump far past the 26 years that are expected, according to a consultant hired by dump opponents.

At the request of attorneys hired by local activists, Wisconsin-based landfill engineer J.W. Spear analyzed trash decomposition and compression to show that Browning Ferris Industries underestimated the dump’s 90-million ton capacity and 26-year life span. Longtime Granada Hills activists in the North Valley Coalition now have the backing of national environmental giants, the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, plus the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents BFI’s workers, in their fight over Sunshine Canyon.

Spear’s report was submitted to Los Angeles County officials this week. The county’s Regional Planning Commission is considering a new land-use permit for Sunshine Canyon Landfill today.

The newly formed coalition of residents, environmental groups and organized labor is pushing for a guarantee that the landfill will close when it reaches 90 million tons or after 26 years – as officials have always estimated. Currently, the permit allows BFI to keep adding trash until the dump is full – even years longer than anticipated.

“A closure date would be advantageous and give an end point to the agony that surrounding communities have suffered,” said Jan Chatten-Brown, an attorney representing Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources, or POWER.

The Teamsters local, whose contract with BFI expires in 2007, decided to join to coalition because its members are residents of the community, said spokeswoman Leigh Strope.

“They are concerned about the impact this landfill is having on the health and safety of their families and their children.”

In Sun Valley, the Teamsters have rallied to support BFI competitor, Waste Management, which has proposed to expand Bradley Landfill and build a transfer station.

BFI District Manager Greg Loughnane said the POWER coalition’s request is misguided. The closure date is an estimate. The landfill’s permit regulates the footprint of the dump, not its capacity or life span.

“Market conditions will dictate when the landfill will close,” he said.

Carlos Ruiz, with Los Angeles County Department of Public Works’ Environmental Programs, said his group’s previous analysis conflicts with Spear’s report. County analysts found Sunshine Canyon Landfill can take about 92 million tons and last an extra year or two at the most.

BFI is seeking a new land-use permit to combine two separate dumps – one in county jurisdiction and one in city jurisdiction – into one massive landfill. The joint landfill could take in up to 12,100 tons of trash per day, generating an estimated 2,500 truck trips a day.